Our opinion: Burris will be judged in court of public opinion
June 22, 2009 • Editorial •
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
Posted Jun 22, 2009 @ 12:02 AM
ON HEARING the news Friday that he would not face perjury charges for his testimony to the Illinois House impeachment committee, Sen. Roland Burris proclaimed in a statement that "the truth has prevailed."
Forgive us, senator, if we disagree.
If anything, semantics prevailed in the latest "victory" in Burris' short and turbulent Senate career. Truth, in its purest sense, has been a victim of this sorry debacle from the start.
This goes back to Burris' initial nomination. As we said in December, and as we have repeated many times since, Burris' very acceptance of this nomination by Rod Blagojevich -- the man accused of trying to sell the seat to which he then nominated Burris -- was proof of his unfitness for membership in the U.S. Senate. That Burris has never managed to comprehend this only puts his lack of judgment -- and his ego -- into sharper focus.
WE AGREE with Sangamon County State's Attorney John Schmidt that Burris probably did not commit the legal definition of perjury in his testimony before the Illinois House impeachment committee in January. Schmidt, who must prove his claims in a court of law, must be cautious in parsing Burris' words.
Here in the court of public opinion -- which is the court of Burris' unfortunate constituents -- we take a broader view. In his testimony, Burris told the committee he had contact only with Blagojevich associate Lon Monk prior to his appointment.
Rep. Jil Tracy then asked Burris, "So you don't recall that there was anybody else besides Lon Monk that you expressed that interest to at that point?" Burris answered, "No, I can't recall."
Miraculously, after he was seated in the Senate (following a circus-like show among all parties involved), he "recalled" that he spoke to the governor's brother, Rob, three times about the Senate vacancy. Oh, and he also "recalled" that he spoke to Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, who was later arrested on the same morning as the governor.
He revealed those recollections in an affidavit he filed with the committee because, he said, he was "not given the opportunity" to mention them in his testimony.
WE'LL GO OUT on a short limb here and suggest that the "anybody else" in Rep. Tracy's question would, to any witness concerned about truth, include the brother of the man whose impeachment was the subject of the hearing. We believe any thoughtful witness also would have managed to "recall," when asked, speaking to the chief of staff of the soon-to-be-impeached governor.
But there we go again. Operating in the court of public opinion.
Were he not blinded by his desire for the title he now holds, Burris would have realized long ago that ultimately that is where he and his legacy will be judged. Legal decisions aside, this is where we believe the truth someday will prevail, and not in favor of Burris.
Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2009
Springfield Tax Revolt
Taxpayer victories are rare these days, so let's cheer the good news in Illinois, where earlier this week the state House in Springfield voted 74-42 against a plan to raise the income tax rate on individuals and businesses by 50%.
When Governor Pat Quinn succeeded Rod Blagojevich in January, he immediately proposed raising the personal income tax to 4.5% from 3%, the business tax rate to 7.2% from 4.8%, and expanding the sales tax to services ranging from dry cleaners to Internet hookup. The Democrat says the income tax hike is "based on a principle as old as the Bible. Taxes should be based on the ability to pay." But voters can distinguish between rendering unto God and unto Quinn, and public dismay was so widespread that even 26 Democrats voted to kill this tax grab.
Just as surprising, not a single Republican voted for the tax increase. In recent times the ideological distinction between the GOP and Democrats has been as murky as the Chicago River. Former Governors "Big Jim" Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan transformed Republicans into the tax-and-spend party.
Solidarity has given Republicans new leverage in the budget debates because majority Democrats are terrified to pass a tax hike on their own. Mr. Quinn may call for a new tax vote, but the GOP can now instead demand spending and ethics reforms in a state where political corruption is at New Jersey proportions. One reason Mr. Quinn's tax plan failed is because there was little effort to slow down spending that has increased 45% (to $4,700 from $3,250 per person after inflation) in the past decade.
Following the defeat of California's tax increase, the Illinois revolt is more evidence that voters are rejecting tax-and-spend politics. Beltway Democrats, take note.
Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum <http://forums.wsj.com/viewtopic.php?t=6152> .
Profiles in failure
July 02, 2009 • Editorial •
July 2, 2009
Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, do you think the people of Illinois expect too much of you?
They elect you to provide for their well-being and public safety. They urge you to thoughtfully spend the tens of billions of dollars they send to you every year. They ask you to resolve your differences with civility and, when you're tempted to behave haughtily, an ounce of humility.
At this juncture, though, you and your fellow lawmakers have failed them -- the taxpayers who hire you and the vulnerable citizens who have no choice but to rely on the state to meet their daily needs.
All the huffing and puffing -- the doomsday threats, the mild insults you trade, the theatrical indignation for the cameras -- leads to an inescapable conclusion: You may have purged a disgraced governor, but otherwise you're conducting business as usual in Springfield.
You evidently have one priority: You want what's best for the people of this state -- provided you don't have to seriously affront the public employees unions and other interest groups that have such influence with you.
As a result the citizens of this state have endured weeks of scare tactics about the absence of a state budget supported by a higher income tax. What they haven't experienced is your serious effort to reform how this state spends money on health care, worker pensions and a host of other major categories. In the teeth of a recession, you're relentlessly focused on raising taxes.
And you haven't budged from the preposterous notion that you've fully addressed the ethics voids that for decades have marked this state as one of America's most corrupt.
Speaker Madigan, President Cullerton, your Republican counterparts keep pressing sensible reforms of spending and ethics before they decide whether to join you in a big tax hike. But rather than agreeing to those crucial reforms, you stick with your rope-a-dope squabbling. You really don't want to be forced to change how you operate, do you?
You're relying on task forces and hearings. You need more time for study? What on Earth have you been doing in Springfield since the dead of winter? Your refusal to make the reforms and to pass a new budget has frightened thousands of people who now see how unreliable and prideful you are.
Mr. Madigan, Mr. Cullerton, enough. Accept the spending and ethics reforms and pass a budget. Republicans will help you.
Governor Quinn, your inability to be a strong and consistent leader during this passage is a ceaseless frustration to Democrats and Republicans alike. Tribune stories of recent days have chronicled your ever-changing positions on taxation as you try to appease legislators. Quickly caving in to teachers who didn't want their gold-plated pension plan scaled back for future hires telegraphed that you're strongly committed to smarter spending -- until you aren't. Then on Tuesday you signed into law a sales tax exemption for wind energy projects.
Governor, Illinois is broke. Please stop digging this hole deeper and deeper.